Understanding Why You May Feel Relieved After a Painful Loss

Of all the emotions you might experience after a loss, feeling relieved when someone dies may be one of the most unsettling. We generally associate grief with sadness, guilt, and fear. There’s a sense of longing for what you had, and you might feel as if life will never return to normal.

But for all that’s said about those complex emotions, there needs to be some space to validate the relief people often experience amid a loss.

Here’s why you may feel relief and what to do about it.

Reasons Why You May Feel Relieved After a Death

The experience of relief when someone dies can be complicated and guilt-ridden. On the one hand, you might comfort yourself by being reminded that your loved one isn’t suffering anymore. But, on the other hand, it may feel weird (and even disturbing) to experience positive emotions after a tragic event.

The reality is that every grieving process evokes complex emotions, and how you respond to death varies based on your relationship, individual emotional needs, and the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. If you’ve experienced profound grief before, you already know that no two grief situations look identical.

Here are some reasons people feel relief after a loss:

You Experienced Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is a branch of complicated grief, and it can happen long before the actual death. With this kind of grief, there’s a deep sadness or anger that occurs long before the death itself.

Anticipatory grief can coincide with your loved one having:

  • a life-threatening medical condition, including cancer and dementia
  • significant drug abuse or other forms of addiction
  • a debilitating mental illness that required significant time and attention
  • experiences in a nursing home or hospice care
  • dramatic personality changes that affected the quality of your relationship
  • a complicated or unpleasant relationship with you

Anticipatory grief comes with its own set of intense, complicated emotions, and you may feel guilty for mourning what’s no longer there. But this type of grief is completely normal, and it may contribute to some feelings of relief after the death occurs.

You Know the Other Person Is No Longer Suffering

If an ailing loved one has been suffering for many years, death can certainly bring forth a sense of relief. There’s no more long illness to battle. There are no more conflicting emotions about the best action of care.

And most of all, you may find a sense of peace knowing they’re no longer in pain. From that perspective, the death itself may seem like a welcomed relief (even if that feeling also evokes a sense of guilt or shame). This relief may be more salient when the final stages of life were particularly arduous.

You Feel a Sense of Closure

Death is a form of closure, no matter how emotionally painful that closure is.

Your feelings of relief may seem strange, especially if others are deeply mourning, but they may speak to you letting go of parts of the relationship (or the roles you held in that relationship).

If you and your loved one had a difficult relationship, this need for closure may be even more crucial. For example, many people feel some relief when grieving a strained or unhealthy relationship. They no longer have to navigate those delicate dynamics.

You Were Experiencing Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout refers to a chronic state of emotional and mental exhaustion. Stressed caregivers may not recognize the magnitude of their many emotions, but they often feel immense stress due to their situations.

Sometimes feeling relieved after someone’s death brings awareness to the magnitude of your caregiving duties. Even if you experienced joy and gratitude looking after your loved one, the tasks can be taxing, painful, and even thankless.

You’re Tired of Navigating Other Family Members

Unfortunately, an impending loss can pull apart existing family dynamics. This is especially true among siblings splitting caregiving duties with one another. It can also be true when managing issues related to trusts, wills, and estates.

The grieving process evokes different reactions for everyone, but relief may be associated with a sense of freedom. You no longer need to have difficult conversations with other people. There may also be less serious decisions to consider.

Grief Counseling in Texas After a Significant Loss

The death of a loved one impacts everyone differently, and feelings of relief don’t mean the loss hurts any less. As you navigate coping with death, you will feel emotions in varying capacities, and having a positive emotion isn’t inherently synonymous with feeling healed.

Grief therapy offers emotional support, compassion, and a safe place as you navigate your grief reactions. You are not a bad person for how you feel, and you’re allowed to honor your own journey of healing.

I am here to walk this journey with you. Contact me today to schedule an initial consultation.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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